in conversation with Minikhan: Shuddh Desi Romance

Beth: Can you be objective about what we saw today, given that you are the de facto patron saint of Yash Raj Films and at least two of your films' posters make appearances?
Minikhan: This isn't really an SRK, arm-fling, filmi kind of film, so I think I have only an average-viewer level of investment.
Beth: Its few moments of filminess actually feel intrusive and artificial.
Minikhan: Agree. Mostly the songs—
Beth: That whistling—oi.
Minikhan: These characters are playful enough but having them break out into side-by-side choreography and run slow-mo through tourist attractions doesn't feel authentic to them.
Beth: Sometimes songs are wonderful reminders of the joy and power of escapism, or even projection of imagination or wishes, but I didn't get that here.
Minikhan: No. I think the songs would be better just playing in the background for the characters so that we know they hear them, and we can see them reflect or react to what they hear, but somehow them mouthing the words didn't work.
Beth: I haaaaate the electronically processed vocals on "Gulabi" for what they do to break the illusion and ruin the moment, but I do really love the concept of pink representing new love. Especially in the pink city. Pink confetti is how it feels.
Minikhan: If people didn't already know you're a romantic softie, they do now.
Beth: Hello, Kettle? This is Pot. That song really woks visually for me: all the little mirrors reflecting the couple back to each other, how they only have eyes for each other despite the beauty and activity of the settings.

Minikhan: I was really worried this was going to veer off into Cocktail territory for the female characters and their life choices.
Beth: It's a much less judgmental film.
Minikhan: Would you also call it modern?
Beth: Maybe. On the one hand, it has young people living essentially on their own and doing things we don't often see or hear about in films.
Minikhan: And on the other, the wise elder (Rishi Kapoor)—
Beth: RISHI 4EVA!!!!
Minikhan: Absolutely. His character is always right and is associated with that most unshakeable of traditions, the wedding. And it's so interesting that a big part of his business seems to be accessorizing and presenting false facades. He's more...well, band baaja baaraat than he is matchmaker or pandit.
Beth: Hmm.
Minikhan: He's not in any way stifling, though, is he?
Beth: No, though I am also not sure he would choose for these character the way they eventually choose for themselves.
Minikhan: But I doubt he condemns them for what they do Or even minds. Or even thinks it's any of his business.

Beth: The only people who insert their opinions are older men who have no close connection to any of the central players, and they're both initially feared and then dismissed as irrelevant. That's a nice message.
Minikhan: It takes some guts to ignore people who think they have a right to judge you, and the film's trio of protagonists have a lot of courage.
Beth: Possibly more courage than brains.
Minikhan: And definitely more courage than empathy, at least at first. Is that what this film is about, do you think? Learning to be careful of other people while also standing up for yourself?
Beth: Could be. I'm struck by what it did with lying and truth-telling. It rewards honesty, both towards oneself and towards others.

Beth: A few hours after we saw it, are there any moments that still stick out for you? Mine is when Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) says to the camera "The third or fourth time your heart breaks, it doesn't make noise anymore." I'm surprised I managed not to burst into tears. I wonder what she means by that: that other people don't notice your heartbreak or that you don't even notice it? Or that you have no energy to give to a fight and just lie silent and defeated?
Minikhan: That is a lovely piece of writing, and we expect no less from Jaideep Sahni. He has created a few notable thoughtful, layered women in his career so far. He's responsible for two of your top five favorite Hindi films, isn't he?
Beth: He is, and while Shuddh Desi Romance hasn't catapulted onto that list, it's a film that the people who made it can be proud of.
Minikhan: Instead of a favorite moment, I have a...what, a chain, a garland of little bits. The plot is circular in a way that probably sounds boring if I were to describe it to someone who hasn't seen the film, but the way they build out of the repetition is interesting. It's a spiral staircase rather than a broken record on a turntable. These characters are not the quickest learners out there, but they are given the time they need and deserve to grow up a little bit. They have to repeat the experiences that challenge them until they learn.
Beth: And when the film finishes, it isn't with "Bang! Happy ending! Now we're done!" It is happy, but it is also just a phase in which one particular decision is made and the characters clearly know they'll have more decisions to make in the future. It's kind of how I wish Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani had ended, because that one has more certainty than the nature of the characters can fully support. This one feels more truthful to them.

Minikhan: I also like that Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput) is never bullied into being someone he isn't ready to be but also isn't a completely juvenile manchild. He's young, confused, and scared, and those things aren't solved automatically just because runtime is approaching.
Beth: Now I'm wondering if, when coupled with the pivotal conversation between the two women, who are interesting and in-progress adults in their own right, there's some kind of statement about the increasing irrelevance of the male?
Minikhan: True, there's no place for an alpha male in a story like this or a film with a tone like this one. Power doesn't enter into this story at all.
Beth: No one is in big business, there are no governments or banks at stake, no one is saving the world or a city or even a family. Everyone is taking responsibility for themselves first and the people immediately connected to them second, and the world is as small and manageable as that.
Minikhan: * checks biceps * Capital-H Heroes will still have their place, but it's nice to be reminded that not every mainstream film has them.
Beth: It's more than telling stories that don't involve pummeling people, though. It's about women getting to say as much, to be on screen as much, affecting the outcome as much, controlling and deciding for themselves as much.

Minikhan: Speaking of choices, that Gayatri has an eye for textiles.
Beth: Gloriously so. And costumer Varsha Shilpa deserves special attention for creating a wardrobe for Gayatri that to me seems every bit as distinctive and memorable—iconic, even—as Babli's. I can't tell you how pleased I was to be wearing a tunic-length shirt with button tabs for rolled-up sleeves just like Gayatri has on in half of the movie.
Minikhan: Raghu's shirts and the suits of the wedding guests are also amazing. In thirty years people will ogle them just like we love Shashi's button-downs from the 70s.
Beth: Absolutely. I love it when lead movie actors can be made to look like regular people, and I most definitely saw many twentysomething men wearing exactly what he wears as they followed me around the monuments of Jaipur.
Minikhan: Told you biceps still have their uses.

Beth: I think we agree that Parineeti and Sushant are expressive and believable and fun to watch. What do you make of Vaani Kapoor?
Minikhan: Her role is very hard to talk about without spoiling anything. I'm not sure I understood her motivation—or rather, that her actions feel completely supported by what she explained out loud. As for the actor, she has a calmness that is a nice contrast to both the other leads.
Beth: A few hours later and I can't remember much about her—or her role—but maybe that's how it's supposed to be. She certainly isn't bad.
Minikhan: Not being overshadowed in this by Parineeti, presence-wise, is no small challenge.

Minikhan: Anything else?
Beth: Why are there so many references to Katrina Kaif, as opposed to other hot Bollywood commodities, other than that she's in Dhoom 3?
Minikhan: Let us not speak of it.
Beth: You haven't forgiven her for yrfing all over Jab Tak Hai Jaan, have you?
Minikhan: I have not.
Beth: Fair enough. I think it's time for a dance break. I still have "Tere Mere Beech Mein" is stuck in my head. Want to push back the chairs and work on our side-by-side choreo?
Minikhan: As Raghu would say, "I don't mind."


dipali said…
I have to see this!!!!
Anonymous said…
You're such an amazing writer...It's high time you write a book. I'm sure you'll have lots to talk about :)

Shuddh Desi is very today and comes closest, than any hindi film I've seen, to reality, to how love and relationships are perceived....
Dipali - Do! It's cute! :)

Mansi - Aww thank you! And fingers crossed, perhaps one will appear.
Adesh Biswas said…
It's a nice conversation with Minikhan.I Watch Shuddh Desi Romance and I say,This Movie is one of the beat movie in 2013.I love this movie So much.
Adesh Biswas said…
It's a nice conversation with Minikhan.I Watch Shuddh Desi Romance and I say,This Movie is one of the beat movie in 2013.I love this movie So much.

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